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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Nov 4;105(44):16860-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0808927105. Epub 2008 Oct 30.

The effects of 3 environmental risks on mortality disparities across Mexican communities.

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World Health Organization, CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland.


The disparities in the burden of ill health caused by environmental risks should be an important consideration beyond their aggregate population effects. We used comparative risk assessment methods to calculate the mortality effects of unsafe water and sanitation, indoor air pollution from household solid fuel use, and ambient urban particulate matter pollution in Mexico. We also estimated the disparities in mortality caused by each risk factor, across municipios (counties) of residence and by municipio socioeconomic status (SES). Data sources for the analysis were the national census, population-representative health surveys, and air quality monitoring for risk factor exposure; systematic reviews and meta-analyses of epidemiological studies for risk factor effects; and vital statistics for disease-specific mortality. During 2001-2005, unsafe water and sanitation, household solid fuel use, and urban particulate matter pollution were responsible for 3,000, 3,600, and 7,600 annual deaths, respectively. Annual child mortality rates would decrease by 0.2, 0.1, and 0.1 per 1,000 children, and life expectancy would increase by 1.0, 1.2, and 2.4 months, respectively, in the absence of these environmental exposures. Together, these risk factors caused 10.6% of child deaths in the lowest-SES communities (0.9 deaths per 1,000 children), but only 4.0% in communities in the highest-SES ones (0.1 per 1,000). In the 50 most-affected municipios, these 3 exposures were responsible for 3.2 deaths per 1,000 children and a 10-month loss of life expectancy. The large disparities in the mortality effects of these 3 environmental risks should form the basis of interventions and environmental monitoring programs.

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